The Caribbean is a chain of islands that center around the tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea. With 13 countries making up this vibrant region, including Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Puerto Rico, it’s safe to say that the Caribbean has some pretty killer cuisine to its name.
The Caribbean is a lively place that’s full of passionate people who love to live well and eat better. Their fiery cuisine is fusion food as its best, with influence from Africa, Latin America, India, South Asia, the Middle East, and even China.
The culture of the Caribbean is a welcoming one, and this can largely be put down to the diverse backgrounds of the people who have moved to the region and proudly it called home.
By showcasing a diverse selection of the best Caribbean eats, this article offers a sneaky snapshot into the way Caribbean people come together to share their time and food.
From the Jerk Chicken of Jamaica to the Coucou & Flying Fish of Barbados and every appetizer, dessert, and cocktail between – bring the colors, smells, and taste of the Caribbean into your home with these recipes today.
Originating out of Jamaica, saltfish fritters fast became a fried favorite of most Caribbean nations. A quick and simple snack that tastes of the Caribbean sea and can be picked up and dipped into a spicey sauce, does it get any better than that?
The only hitch is that you need to remember to soak the saltfish for at least 12 hours in cold water before you’re ready to batter and fry it. The perfect appetizer to a Caribbean-inspired evening that will have your guests salivating at the thought of more.
2. Mango Salsa
We’re guessing that you’ve already got a good salsa recipe scribbled down somewhere that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice, but have you ever tried mango salsa?
Using mango, sweet bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, lime, salt and pepper, and jalapeno if you desire a kick, this super simple salsa recipe will transport you straight to the tropical sensations of the Caribbean, even if it is cold out.
This Caribbean-inspired shrimp spread is the ideal candidate to be cozied up next to the crackers and carrots sticks on the party food table.
With just five ingredients, this simple spread can be mixed together in a few minutes and will go a long way in keeping the party happy until the main course is ready.
The two components that really give this spread a Caribbean kick are the mango jam and Caribbean seasoning, which should be mixed through generously, not sparingly.
Caribbean cuisine is certainly not averse to a little batter and oil, and a whole lot of frying, and this Dominican appetizer is no exception.
Termed “Yaniqueque” or sometimes “yanikeke”, depending on who you speak to, this deliciously crispy fried bread can be bought, street-side, on almost every corner in the Dominican Republic.
Typically served with good old-fashioned ketchup, this humble snack has been feeding the Dominican people for well over 100 years, with its recipe roots firmly in Africa.
Traditionally served at religious gatherings and parties, this Trinidadian fritter is another honest snack that holds a special place in the hearts of many.
Seasoned with various spices and hot peppers, the split pea batter is then rolled into small balls and dunked into a hot pan of oil until they turn a stunning golden brown in color.
Pholourie can be found all throughout the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago in local bakeries, with a distinctive Creole tradition in cuisine.
Serve it with your go-to sweet chutney and proudly watch as every pholourie gets gobbled up by your guests (just remember to keep a few to the side for yourself).
6. Geera Pork
Another snack from the vibrant nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Geera Pork is a popular snack in the beachside bars of the island. The pork is cut into small chunks and then seasoned with cumin, garlic, pepper, and a good helping of your hottest peppers.
Once it’s had time to marinate, it is then cooked in water. This process allows the pork to soak up all of its own juices and makes for a well-cooked and tender meaty snack.
Served as finger food, and put down to its pepper content, Geera is purposed with soaking up alcohol – perfect for keeping people contained come game day.
Learn how to make the classic Jamaican beef patty from this super simple recipe that will have you trying out your best Jamaican phrases by the end of it. The secret ingredient to get the pastry tasting just right is of course spice.
Mix some garam masala and turmeric into the shortcrust pastry to give your patties a Jamaican edge of flavor. A blend of Cornish, African, and Indian cuisine, this beef patty is a tasty fusion snack that won’t hang about long once served.
There’s something very appealing to home chefs about a one-pan dish. Having all of your ingredients cooking away in one place helps to keep the mind calm in the heat of the cook.
This Caribbean jerk chicken recipe is elevated by seductively sweetened pineapple-coconut rice. The dish can be prepared in a mere 30 minutes and cooked in the same amount of time.
Leaving you with a sweet and spicy one-pan meal to appease anyone who’s lucky enough to be with you, sitting down at the table, and closing in on this one-pan perfection – Caribbean style.
Taken from the contemporary Caribbean restaurant “Caribe” in the heart of Brixton, London – this iconic dish is an ode to the global influence and affection of Caribbean cuisine.
Curry shrimp is an all-time classic of Trinidad, and this contemporary recipe shows respect where it’s due while bringing a modern twist to the plate.
The shrimp is seasoned with a good helping of the citrusy amchur masala, fresh greens, with a couple of scotch bonnets diced through to bring the fire. Serve it with the Indian flatbread “Paratha” to soak up the curry’s spiced shrimp goodness and revel in the freshness of this splendid dish.
As you’re probably aware by now, Caribbean cuisine isn’t necessarily a vegetarian’s or vegan’s dream. So when we stumbled upon this vegan curry, it was a no-brainer to include it.
With ties to Africa, plantain has been used in Jamaican and Caribbean cooking for a very long time. This curry will be a serious winner amongst your veggie friends, with a load of fresh vegetables and beans right alongside the fabled plantain.
Make a big pot of this spice-heavy curry from scratch and reap its rewards for a few days more, as the flavor only gets better and better.
Staying on the veggie train, we’re tempting all the veggie lovers out there with a fusion of Caribbean and Chinese cuisine. Dating back to Ancient China, adzuki beans are the most easily digestible bean in the world and are also packed full of protein, making them a sure-fire hit amongst health-conscious eaters.
By incorporating quintessential Caribbean ingredients like yams, molasses, and spices with the famed adzuki bean, this is one of the healthiest stews that we’ve come across. 100% vegan and free of soy and gluten, it is also the perfect stew for people with allergen worries.
In Barbados, there is no single dish that holds more meaning for the local people than Coucou & flying fish. Now considered the national dish of the island, it is typically served on Fridays in many homes and local restaurants to great praise.
The warm waters that surround Barbados are teeming with flying fish, so it’s little wonder why they have flown their way into the national dish. This is an authentic recipe that harnesses key Bajan ingredients like the famed Hot Pepper Sauce and is a great representation of Bajan cuisine to the world.
Sancocho is a special 7-meat stew that is cherished far and wide. With origins in the Canary Islands, the Sancocho recipe sailed across to Latin America and rapidly spread, gaining notoriety as a special-occasion dish as it went.
The Dominican Republic caught one whiff of Sanchoco and that was enough – it is now so ingrained into their culture that it’s hard to differentiate where traditional Dominican food starts and Sancocho ends.
This Sancocho recipe has kept the flavors traditional but simplified the meat list down to a three meat grouping of chicken, beef, and pork.
If the thought of seven different cuts of meat has put you off the recipe hunt, don’t despair just yet, as we’ve got a real vegan treat for you.
Trinidadian corn soup is a crowd-favorite amongst locals and is typically served as an after-party soup to send friends and family on their way with a full stomach and a warm heart.
This recipe has kept with the tradition of including long (spinner) dumplings that bob around while soaking up the delicious soupy flavors, helping to fill the belly of whoever is lucky enough to be passed a bowl.
Yes, Jerk Chicken has already had a feature in this list. But while that recipe was all about being practical as a one-pot meal, this is an essential Jamaican Jerk recipe that, maybe even more so, is deserving of your attention.
To make this as authentic as you can, you really need to meticulously acquire all the necessary spices and ingredients including the allspice berries.
The other trick is to make sure that you leave the chicken to marinate overnight (no exceptions). Last but not least, the chicken must be grilled (preferably with a cover), and yep you’re right, there are no exceptions on that one either.
Do these three things and trust us when we say, this will be the best finger-licking grilled chicken that you’ve had the pleasure of devouring.
16. Cuban Sliders
Known locally as a “Cubano”, the Cuban sandwich is an institution amongst Cuban street-food culture, as well as south Florida where, for years, Cubans have settled and influenced with their flavorsome food.
These really are for the pork lovers out there, as they feature not one but two cuts of pork (roast pork and ham), sandwiched between toasted, panini-style Cuban bread.
No Cuban slider is complete without a good amount of mustard, pickles, and swiss cheese in accompaniment. If the cheese is melted, if the bread is crusty, if the pork is tender and salty, and the mustard is tangy, then you will be happy.
Using just cornmeal, coconut milk, raisins, and spices, this Jamaican cornmeal pudding can be made quickly and to great success. It is eaten year-round in Jamaica but is particularly popular on national holidays and at festive times of the year.
It is a firm pudding that benefits from just the right combination of sweet and savory flavors. The coconut custard topping helps give the pudding an irresistible creaminess, which makes trying to refrain from going back for seconds a serious mission.
Have you ever had a bunch of over-ripe bananas in the fruit bowl and never quite known what to do with them? Sure, you could make banana bread out of them, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert, then this baked rum banana recipe is much, much easier.
With a splash of lime juice, a good pouring of rum, and some ice cream or yogurt to serve, you could turn those sad-looking bananas into a tropical dessert that’ll send you on your merry way, to bed.
19. Tamarind Balls
Tamarind has an acquired taste that people either love or hate. With a strong sweet side and a just as strong sour side, the fruit is often misunderstood and classed as too intense by many foodies.
However, and if you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, you would have noticed tamarind balls for sale in their hundreds in many food establishments across the island chain.
All you got to do to make your own tamarind balls and see what the fuss is about, is to acquire some Tamarind pods, a sweetener of your choice, and some alcohol-free rum (as per this recipe).
If you’d prefer to feel the full-scale fire of the Caribbean, then by all means use that spiced bottle of rum in the cupboard to really give these sweet treats a kick.
Dating back to Ancient Rome, flan is a delicious and traditional dessert that’s adored in the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, and beyond. The Cuban take on this most classic of desserts features coconut to give it a tropical twist that will impress every guest.
While flan is notoriously tricky to get just right, this simple recipe is super easy to follow with a step-by-step breakdown of its method.
There’s nothing sweeter than drizzling caramelized sugar over a warm and gooey flan, knowing that you’ve created perfection and that your friends and family will soon be enjoying your baking spoils.
Although ginger isn’t native to the Caribbean, its warm and tropical climate makes it an ideal place for ginger cultivation.
You’ll find many countries including Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have big ginger industries that have, unsurprisingly, meant that ginger has made its way into endless Caribbean recipes.
Molasses and fresh ginger root make this sweet and chewy gingerbread a classic family hit that will have you contemplating sneaking in a piece every time you pass the kitchen.
22. Cuba Libre
Against the naive opinion that this iconic cocktail is just a rum and coke, the mighty Cuba libre represents Cuban independence and is intertwined into the very fabric of Cuban life.
Yes, technically the only difference between a rum and coke and the Cuba libre is the freshly squeezed lime juice and the slice of lime that’s added in for effect, but that is most certainly enough.
The lime acts as a delicate bridge between the sweetness of the coca-cola and the intensity of the rum, which makes it a superior drink, to say the least. Get into the revolutionary spirit and pour yourself a highball glass of this classic Cuban beverage to shine through the clouds and give you some fiery energy to burn.
23. Piña Colada
It’s hard to visit a cocktail bar, chain restaurant, or holiday resort that doesn’t have a Piña Colada on the menu. The unfortunate downside of its immense popularity has meant that too many under-par Piña Coladas are being made, and that is a crime that needs addressing.
This recipe makes a point of sticking to the classic recipe, while also offering a slightly more refined edge to suit the modern ways of cocktail making.
Prepare one of these pineapple-heavy, rum-infused creamy delights on an idle winter’s day and transport yourself to the lively scenes of downtown San Juan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes Caribbean Food Caribbean?
Because of its cultural ties to many parts of the world, Caribbean food can be defined as fusion food. The tropical climate of the Caribbean also lends its cuisine to fresh and lively ingredients that mirror the energy of the region and its people.
Gaining influence from Africa, Europe, India, China, and the Middle East it is hard to define Caribbean food in any other way but diverse.
What is the most famous dish in the Caribbean?
Although this is a debatable and rather subjective question, there’s no denying the huge following that jerk chicken has, and jerk in general for that matter.
Referring to the spicy wet or dry rub that is smothered over meat, jerk and Jamaica go together like rice and peas. Once the meat has harnessed the jerk flavors and sensations it is then smoked and grilled to give it that crispy fiery edge that is adored the world over.
Why is there Indian food in the Caribbean?
You may have noticed that many Caribbean nations have a national dish or two that’s centered around curry. With curry originating in India, the connection in cuisine between the Caribbean and India is by no means a coincidence – more like a happy accident.
In the 19th century, many Indian indentured workers were brought over by the British, who maintained a prosperous spice trade between the two regions for many years.
The influx of Indian trade, its people, and its culture meant that traditional Caribbean food would soon be inherently influenced by Indian cuisine and, would never be the same again.
As evidenced by the vast influence of the recipes above, the Caribbean is a melting pot of people, culture, and food. Having colonial and migratory ties with just about every continent on earth, this island chain is home to some of the most diverse food on the planet.
So whatever your food preferences are, we hope you were able to put together a show-stopping three-course meal from the list above.
Kicking off your evening’s proceedings with a classic Caribbean cocktail – just remember to request your guests to dig out their best Hawaiian island shirt to really set the tropical scene.